Military court member points out flaws in trials

ISLAMABAD - Discrepancies found in the conduct of military courts’ trial have been brought into the notice of Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali who hears cases against death sentences awarded by such courts.

Advocate Lt-Col (r) Inam-ur-Rahim, counsel for missing persons, forwarded the letters of an army officer who was a member of one of the military courts, to Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

The army officer wrote separate letters to Maj-Gen Nadir Khan, GOC 17 Division, in October 2015 and to Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in February 2016, pointing out flaws in the trial of military courts. (The Nation has the copies of the letters). The sources confirmed the CJP office had received the letters.

A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, had reserved judgments on 14 petitions filed by the family members of the convicts awarded death sentence by the military courts. The counsels for the convicts, during the proceedings, contended the trial was not fair and according to the law. It was also against the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, they added.

Col Inam told The Nation that he had received the letters of an army officer with the rank of major, through a man Nazar Hussain. He said the purpose of forwarding the letters to the chief justice was that as the Supreme Court was hearing the petitions against the military courts’ sentences, the revelation by a member of the military court might help in making the right decision.

The army officer, in his letter addressed to Maj-Gen Nadir Khan, said at least four of the six cases which he heard should be tried again in the light of the observations made in the letters.

He stated: “First of all, on the very first day, we got a wrong briefing to start with from Headquarters 11 Corps. We were told that all the terrorists tried by the Special Military Courts would be hard-core and all the evidence to be given to us in the shape of interrogation and interment orders would be accurate and true. However, once we started our trials, we came to know gradually that most of the accused handed over to us for trial were just foot soldiers. Moreover, as the time passed, I also came to know that there were many discrepancies in the interrogation reports, internment orders and other evidence provided to us which depicted these were not hundred percent accurate.”

“Another major issue in the beginning was that despite requests no formal law training was imparted, which could have equipped us with the skill to hold these trials. We were even not told what the punishment of different crimes and offences was. Furthermore, right from the outset, access to the actual interrogators and the actual interning officers who interned the accused were denied to us despite repeated demands. The witnesses who had the firsthand knowledge about the crimes of these suspects were not produced. In lieu of the actual witnesses, the current interrogators and the interning officers who had virtually no knowledge or very little knowledge about the offences of the accused were provided to us.”

“All the trials were run in a time-compressed environment (1 to 3 days) on the plea of imparting swift justice. The idea seems sound, but it is not justified keeping in view the outcome. In such a time-compressed scenario, I think we committed many mistakes which could have been avoided”.

The letter further says; “The things became clearer to me when I started vetting the cases of 17 Div. During the process, I observed many flaws and discrepancies in the evidence which were earlier hidden to me. The idea of advance preparation of the case is splendid, but again the problem is in implementation. All the brigades started an unending race to show progress to the Division in the shape of number of cases being vetted, a few using unfair means as well.”

At the end of the letter, the officer told the GOC, “I am just unable to carry this burden anymore. Now after writing all this to you, I am relieved of all my worries and my conscience will be clear while standing in front of Allah Almighty in His most supreme court of justice”.

The letters stated that GOC Maj-Gen Nadir, instead of appreciating the effort of an honest and upright officer and correcting the blunders, started targeting him.

He, therefore, wrote a letter to Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on February 2016 and forwarded a copy to GOC Maj-Gen Nadir. The officer writes, “Unfortunately, to date no corrective measure was taken by the entire chain of command to provide justice to the people.”

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